MSOs, LCOs could soon face anti-monopoly regulations

MUMBAI: There could soon be caps on market shares of multi-system operators (MSOs) and local cable operators (LCOs) in a city, district, state and the country.

The Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry is keen that competition emerges in some states where monopolies have got created in the absence of any market share regulations and such monopolies do not form in other states, through reasonable restrictions on MSOs and LCOs.

The Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry on Thursday asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) for its views on imposing of restrictions to prevent monopolies and the measures to prevent monopolistic operations by MSOs and LCOs.

The I&B Ministry said it has asked Trai to provide its recommendations based on the following: “In order to ensure fair competition, improved quality of service, and equity, should any restriction be imposed on MSOs/LCOs to prevent monopolies/accumulation of interest? If yes, what restrictions should be imposed and what should be the form, nature and scope of such restrictions?”

The ministry has asked Trai to also suggest amendments required in the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) 1995 Act and Rules framed thereunder.
The ministry said it has observed that cable TV distribution is virtually monopolised in some states as operation of the entire cable TV network is dominated by a single entity in those states. At present, there are no restrictions on the issue of accumulation of interest in terms of market share in a City, District, State or country by individual MSOs and LCOs in the cable sector.

MSOs and LCOs are currently free to operate in any area or areas of their choice after obtaining registration from the ministry.

The ministry feels such monopolies may not be in the interest of cable TV consumers and may have serious implications in terms of competition, pricing and healthy growth of cable TV sector in that market.

MSOs and LCOs are required to be registered with local Post Offices to be able to operate in the permitted areas of registration. However, as per recent amendments in the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Amendment Rules 2012, it has become mandatory for MSOs to get registration from the I&B Ministry to operate in areas which are notified for analogue switch off and transition to digital cable TV delivery.

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